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Assessment – Revisit the Topic

Posted by Tommy Lu on April 20, 2012

Several presenters at the First National Chinese Language Conference in 2008 brought up the issue of assessment. They claimed that assessment should be “enjoyable” and “effective.” At one of the sessions, “Assessment for Learning: Considerations for the Profession”, the presenter (Greg Duncan) mentioned several assessment tools that are being used in different levels. I am only familiar with STAMP (Standards-Based Assessment of Proficiency, http://www.stamptest.net/stamp0708/stamptest/, and OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview). However, based on the responses from the audiences, there are more assessment tools such as MOPI (Modified OPI). There are even assessment tools for K-2 levels as well as 3-6 grade levels. One assessment tool, I just could not remember the name of it. is used to assess language proficiency for the K-2 grade levels where assessment was conducted by an informal interview with students. Students are not aware that they are being assessed and it was conducted in a way that is enjoyable (no pressure) and more effective. Does anyone know the name of this assessment?

After the session, it made me think about assessment again. Are we truly assessing what students have¬†learned? The so called standardized test really a fair and accurate assessment tool? Deborah Meier, in her “In Schools We Trust”, argued that the traditional standardized test, which was based on IQ test, is biased against black students, is not a good and effective assessment tool. In language assessment, most Chinese school teachers as well as public school Chinese language teachers are perhaps also using the out-of-date assessment. For example, many teachers still test students with fragment sentences. From the College Board AP Chinese training I have attended in 2006, the assessmenet should be authentic and in communicative mode. That perhaps is why all my three daughers learned Spanish from 7th grade but still could not conduct a short conversation in Spanish or still could not understand anything from the Spanish channel after years of Spanish learning despite they got As in their Spanish courses.

It looks like there is a need to assess the assessment itself before those assessments can be used and analyzed. Maybe that’s why ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, http://www.actfl.org) only classify students’ proficiency level into novice, intermediate, advanced, and superior levels instead of grade levels.

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